The China Bayles Herbal Mysteries
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- At the beginning of this book, the sixth in the series, China has come to an important decision. What kind of change does this represent for China? What does it reveal about her as a person?
- The China Bayles mysteries are usually organized around general themes. As I conceived the book, one of its significant themes has to do with disillusionment, betrayal of trust, and corruption. To emphasize this theme, I used a quotation from F. Scott Fitzgerald at the beginning of the book: "Show me a hero and I'll write you a tragedy." How do you think this theme plays itself out in the Texas Ranger plot?
- The same theme—disillusionment and betrayal of trust—is woven into the relationship between China and McQuaid. McQuaid has always been a hero in this series. How does his unheroic behavior help China clarify her feelings about him? (for a clue, see pp 208-209) How do you feel about him?
- Ruby does a tarot "spread" to see what the cards suggest about China's predicament. She turns up the Seven of Swords (p 211), the Five of Discs (p. 212), and the Thirteenth Trump (p. 214). What do these cards seem to suggest? What other meanings might they have?
- Not only does China have to struggle with her feelings about what McQuaid has done, but she has to deal with Margaret. What do you think of the way she handles the situation? On page 236, she says: "I want her to go with with me, Doctor. She's my...my sister." What do you make of this remarkable statement? How do you feel about the scene that follows, in McQuaid's hospital room?
- How does China's decision to join forces with Margaret affect the outcome of the mystery? Do you think either China or Margaret could have solved it alone?
- We usually think of herbs as helpful, comforting plants that bring delight and health. But on pages 126-127, China thinks about "the largest and most profitable herbal trade in the world." What is it? How does this use of herbs fit into the theme of disillusionment and corruption?
- The mystery plot in this book is concluded, but the China/McQuaid plot is open and unfinished. How do you feel about this?
Your reading group might enjoy refreshments made from some of Susan's recipe collection. You can check out the recipes at the back of most of the books, at Thyme for Tea or in one of the monthly Tea Parties. Or you can try this recipe, which is related to the book's theme or signature herb:
South of the Border Hot Chocolate
Here is China's recipe for the South of the Border Hot Chocolate that she makes in Chapter 17 of Love Lies Bleeding. You may double or triple this recipe for convenience. And if you're into spicy stuff, experiment by adding a pinch of zippy cayenne.
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 tblsp flour
- ¼ cup cocoa
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- 1/8 tsp ground allspice
- ¼ tsp salt
Combine and store in a closed container until you're ready to use it. To make the hot chocolate, add ¾ cup of the mix to 2 cups water and simmer for 4 minutes. Stir in 6 cups milk. Add 1 tsp vanilla and a dollop of whipped cream, and serve to six people (to three, if they're really thirsty).